Get to know water district and county measures

Photo By: Town Crier File Photo
Photo Town Crier File Photo

Measure A would raise the sales tax to support Santa Clara County services.

Measures A and B on the Nov. 6 ballot affect local residents. Following is a summary of their impact.

Measure A: Sales-tax increase

Santa Clara County does not receive an earmarked fraction of the 8.375 percent in sales tax that residents now pay. That means many county services depend on funding allocations from the state.

When the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted to place a 0.125 percent sales-tax increase on the ballot as Measure A, members characterized it as a local governance safety net, a pool of money that would support regional services when state and federal funding faces unpredictable reductions.

The measure requires a majority to pass and would go into effect April 2013 for 10 years. The Board of Supervisors estimates that it would net $500 million over the next decade if voters agree to raise the county sales tax to 8.5 percent. The additional income would flow into the general fund and not be legally tied to specific uses, but it is described as intended for “local priorities” including law enforcement, emergency-room and social services.

Board President George Shirakawa wrote, “With a questionable outlook for state and federal government funding, and after 10 consecutive years of substantial budget reductions to services and programs, we need to look at other revenue sources for the benefit of the community.”

Of the 8.375 cents currently assessed on each retail dollar residents spend, 7.25 cents go to the state (which passes on funding to counties and cities) and 1.125 cents fund regional transportation services. California law allows cities and counties to increase sales taxes as long as the total stays below 9.25 percent.

Opponents of the measure, including the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association, argue that it would support unsustainable government expenses and hurt local economies. Supporters claim it would fund essential local services.

Another item on the ballot, Proposition 30, also proposes a temporary increase in the sales-tax rate. If passed, it would hike the statewide sales tax by 0.25 of a cent.

Measure B: Safe, clean water program

Measure B asks voters in the Santa Clara Valley Water District to replace the existing parcel tax that funds the Clean, Safe Creeks and Natural Flood Protection Plan, due to expire in 2016. Homeowners in Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View are among those who will vote on a new 15-year, $548 million parcel tax.

The measure requires approval from a two-thirds supermajority of the district’s voters.

Measure B would cost the average homeowner $56 the first year and increase by 3 percent each year through 2028. The existing parcel tax averaged $54.22 this year.

According to water district officials, revenue would be applied to maintaining the safety of the local water supply, reducing contaminants, preparing dams and water infrastructure for natural disasters, restoring natural habitats and protecting communities from flooding.

The original Clean, Safe Creeks and Natural Flood Protection Plan parcel tax passed with support from 66.9 percent of voters in 2000. The agency reports that revenue from that tax funded the completion of the Calabazas Creek Flood Protection Plan, removal of nearly 4,200 pounds of mercury from some of the district’s 700 miles of streams and construction of 66 miles of public trails.

Los Altos and Mountain View officials have yet to weigh in on Measure B. The town of Los Altos Hills endorsed it. Other groups publicly supporting it include the Committee for Green Foothills and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

The Silicon Valley Taxpayers’ Association opposes Measure B, alleging that the water district irresponsibly spent funds collected through the original parcel tax.

– Ellie Van Houtte

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